People Of Art Basel Miami 2016

Article by: Amanda McHugh|@amandakmchugh

Fri December 09, 2016 | 14:00 PM

Last weekend, Miami was taken over by a little thing called Art Basel. It spawned countless satellite fairs, Miami’s incredible street art scene exploded and what seemed like at least eight parties launched every half hour; it was enough to generate a ton of FOMO for everyone who came. Every kind of art was represented masterfully, and lines between genres and mediums ingeniously blurred. It quickly became clear that with art, there are no rules.

For us, Art Basel became a mission. A mission to understand not just art or even artists, but how a massive gathering of creatives and creative work would affect the people there to experience it. To accomplish this, we approached spectators standing in perplexed wonderment, confusion, joy and everything in between in order to hear what they got out of the piece they were connecting with. Here’s what they had to say.

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Title of piece: “Echo” by Jimmie Durham. Photo by: Manda K Photo

I just looked at it and thought it was better than a diamond. I’d rather have that in a piece of jewelry… It makes me feel happy. It’s like those moments that the light hits something and then it reminds you of being a kid and just not having any cares in the world. I just like pieces like that.
–Donna, Convention Center, Art Basel

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Title of piece: “Killing Time” by Mesplé. Photo by: Manda K Photo

Preston: There’s magnets in it, and there’s a magnet there, so once you get closer with your electromagnetic field, then it gets up higher.
Friend: But I’m still confused what he’s trying to say. …
Preston: It says “Killing Time” so that’s why it’s a skull. It’s like a little time thing. It’s bronze, aluminum and steel. That’s what it’s made of.
Friend: You can touch it?
Preston: Yeah, I just did.
Friend: Whoa…
–Preston and his friend at the SCOPE Art Show

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Title of piece: "Jamie Salmon “Picasso.” Photo by: Manda K Photo

When you look into his eyes, they really capture that moment of just the person really looking into your eyes. … In all reality there’s nothing behind those eyes but they’re really looking at you with such, I don’t know, power. There’s a lot of tension when you look into someone’s eyes, when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on…He’s an idol though. I’m sure a lot of artists stem their work from him. And he’s a household name: Picasso.
–Masha Vitt at the SCOPE Art Show

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Photo by: Manda K Photo

Reuben: I feel like I’m looking at my grandfather. That’s what they look like. All my grandparents have all their hair on the side, and balding. My grandfather and all my uncles, all have the same hair.
Masha: Pretty passable, he’s Spanish, so…so maybe you are related. Oooooo, the Picasso line.
–Reuben Rodriguez and Masha Vitt at the SCOPE Art Show

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Title of Piece: The Hobo Roadshow. Photo by: Manda K Photo

I was automatically drawn to it just because it has a an authentic feel to it. I like the fact that it looks hand-built and handmade. My dad does remodeling and woodworking so I could see him teaching me how to put something like this together. I really appreciate different expressions of art. I’m trying to explain to my kids, this, what we experienced, was an art piece, because art comes in so many different forms…I really want my kids to be exposed [to it] and grow their creativity and their imagination as well. Like I don’t even really let them watch TV ‘cause they’re just zoned in on somebody else’s creativity, I’d rather them come up with their own creativity.
–Krystal Bertrand with Isaiah, Kingston and Lea at The Hobo Road Show pop-up

Art Basel 2016 Mandakphoto Michael Obu

Title of Piece: “Fear Me (Black)” by Tristan Eaton. Photo by: Manda K Photo

A lot of people fear the weapon more than the humans who operate or control the weapon. So it’s telling you that, yeah, remember, fear me, but look over there. You’ll see the hand pulls out. Someone is leaving…This takes life, this could take life. Respect the act of the whole thing. …That’s the face making the decision. Whether to pull the trigger or not. It makes me [think] about life, the decisions you make.
–Michael Obu at Wynwood Walls

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Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova showing her music video “Make America Great Again” at the “Post-Election Real Talk” at Nautilus. Photo by: Manda K Photo

They ask you, what is your primary focus? Art or politics? And I feel so stupid every time because I have no idea what to tell them. ‘Cause I honestly don’t separate the things and basically it’s the goal of my whole life: how to escape from any definition or name or classification because [that] allows you to empower yourself. It allows you to understand that basically you could do whatever you want and you could be whatever you want.
–Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot

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Title of Piece: “The Punk Rockster” by Perry Aviad Design. Photo by: Manda K Photo

I like the way the glass cracks when I rock back and forth. And I also like that it makes me want to lounge. Normally I don’t, actually. …I stand up at work. I work at a standing desk I don’t really have a chair. But on this chair, I just wanna lay back and look sexy. I do [feel sexy], I think [it’s] the spikes. The crackling of the glass [attracted me to this piece]. The sound of the glass breaking. I heard people rocking back and forth on the chair and the glass was cracking and there’s just something sexy about destruction. It makes me feel like I need to be photographed.
–Santiago Garza Ceja at Superfine! Art Fair

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Title of Piece: Mural by Tatiana Suarez. Photo by: Manda K Photo

To me, it seems like a woman struggling with something that’s bad and good. She’s aware of what’s going on that’s deep-rooted and something that’s tough. She seems like she’s hurt, but she’s also very loving at the same time. Reminds me of the Garden of Eden. Of Eve. Her fingernails, the way that they’re sharp and pointy. She’s struggling with good and evil. It’s a lot like me. Yeah [I identify with it]. Just like everybody could. No one’s ever 100% good, you know? We all struggle with something inside. This reminds me kind of that battle.
–Rika Wallace at Wynwood Walls

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Title of Piece: Steve Parker’s “Traffic Jam.” Photo by: Manda K Photo

This is a first for me. I think in the car, as a participant we are maybe not observing the art, we are the art. So I’m hearing my little part of it be more than what’s going on down there. …I like the participation element of it, and trying to stay on time. I felt like I was playing elementary school instruments… Like I had a block and a triangle, but it was a horn and some windshield wipers, instead, ha-ha … don’t normally consider myself a musician but he anointed me one so it was pretty awesome.
–Jimi Dennison

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Title of Piece: “Miami Mountain” by Ugo Rondinone. Photo by: Manda K Photo

Terry: I think it’s super, super strange, but beautiful. It has a point. Miami doesn’t have a mountain. That’s what it means. It says 'Miami Mountain.'
Joe: Same thing. Miami Mountain!
All Three: [It makes us feel] Happy! Happy, happy happy.
Joe: The colors are gorgeous.
Susan: Gorgeous! Cheerful. Upbeat.
Terry: Yesterday after I looked at the colors, it makes your soul high.
Susan: I like modern art, so. Each one is different. Like if you have all of the classical paintings, everything looks alike. But you know, this is individual. Every piece of this type of art is different.
–Susan Weitz, Terry Cortizo and Joe Cortizo, Collins Park, Art Basel.

With art, the meaning ultimately rests in the eye of the beholder. We see what we need, or want, to see within each piece. Perhaps a certain piece unlocks something in us, or is a good reminder of something important. Here, we learned that there’s no right and wrong way to observe and experience art, just as there’s no right and wrong way to create it. Speaking with gallery goers from all over the globe we learned that art can connect us to ourselves and to one other. Next time you’re in a gallery or museum and you see someone pondering the same piece you are, ask them: “What do you think of this piece?” You just might learn something beyond what the artist intended.